It is difficult to get a campsite at Killbear Provincial Park. In fact, Killbear is so popular that many campers return there year after year. I met a gentleman in 2005 that told me that he has camped at Killbear every year since the park first opened. Here is why Killbear is so popular:
Environment: Killbear is located along Georgian Bay in the district of Parry Sound, Ontario. Killbear is situated in the Canadian Shield and the beautiful red granite rock can be seen throughout the park along with pine forests. Killbear has some of the most picturesque beaches in the province and provides great swimming opportunities. In 2010, Killbear celebrated its 50th year as a provincial park.
Beach: All campgrounds have beaches within walking distance. Killbear is on a peninsula, with most campgrounds and beaches on the south side of the peninsula. The largest beach is three kilometres long and stretches from the Kilcoursie to Georgian campgrounds. East of the Georgian campground, there is a large outcropping of granite rock and forest along the shoreline, after which the Harold Point beach and campground can be found.
Biking: In 2005, a bike trail was created, which follows the main park road from the park entrance east to Lighthouse Point. The trail is six-kilometres long (one-way), has some small hills and bumps and is suitable for families. Hikers also use the bike trail, so ride with care! The bike trail connects with all campgrounds, and this expands the opportunities for biking.
Camping: There are approximately 880 campsites that are split among seven campgrounds (Kilcoursie, Beaver Dams, Georgian, Harold Point, Granite Saddle, Lighthouse Point and Blind Bay). My favourite campground is Harold Point. The campsites are reasonably large and private and the campground is less crowded than some of the other campgrounds in the park.
Canoeing/Boating: Killbear is on Georgian Bay, so the waters can be rough for canoeing. Ensure that you are adequately prepared and be cautious if you want to explore the Georgian Bay shoreline. Many campers bring motorized boats on their camping trips to Killbear. Boating is very popular in the area.
Fishing: There are endless fishing opportunities in Georgian Bay. Ensure that you have a valid fishing license and review the fishing regulations in the park. Ask for a copy of the Killbear Information Guide at one of the park offices for more details.
Hiking: There are three easy hiking trails in the park that range in length from 1 kilometre to 3.5 kilometres. My favourite is the Twin Points Trail (1.5 kilometres loop), which provides a beautiful view of Georgian Bay and the beach that extends from Kilcoursie to Georgian campgrounds. The six-kilometre long bike trail is another option. Perhaps the best strategy is to just hike the main beach, as it is accessible from the Kilcoursie, Beaver Dams and Georgian campgrounds.
Shopping and Attractions: There are private businesses that sell camping supplies just outside the park boundary along regional road 559. Parry Sound is approximately a 40-minute drive from Killbear. Island Queen Cruise offers tours of Georgian Bay 30,000 Islands from Parry Sound. There is usually one cruise per day between June and October. There are many other attractions in the area.
The Amphitheatre: Killbear has a large amphitheatre and the evening shows provide great entertainment throughout the summer.
The Visitor Centre: Killbear has a large two level visitor centre that showcases the park environment, animals and human history. There is also a bookstore. The new Visitor Centre was added in 2006.
Wildlife: There is lots of wildlife in the area, even though there is a large concentration of campers nearby. I’ve spotted deer in the park on many occasions.
In Conclusion: The beauty of Killbear and close proximity to the greater Toronto area make it extremely difficult to secure campsite reservations at Killbear, if you don’t book five months in advance. The July-August occupancy rate for 2009 was 86%. If you don’t book early and need a reservation, consider camping at Killbear during the middle of the week when campsite availability increases. I have camped at Killbear many times and will continue to return there in future years. It is one of my favourite parks in the Ontario Parks system.
My Park Rating: 5 out of 5